The Separation of the Wicked

The net is built with ropes at the top and weights at the bottom.Fishermen would tie one end of the net to the shore. They would pull the other end through the waters in a semi-circle, using one boat.The men would come ashore, pulling in all kinds of fish.

I remember when my brother and I went to Roxas City, Panay, for a summer vacation. I went to the beach, finding a group of people pulling at a net. I could see the net extending from the shore to the sea. A little boy, I put my hands on the net and pulled on it. It was hard to pull; the net never moved at all. After the men pulled in the net, I saw all kinds of fish in the net. There was a hammerhead shark, “butiti,” crabs, and other fish.

The kingdom of God is like a net that pulls in all kinds of people.The net of the kingdom is filled with all kinds of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation in human history. All the uneducated sinners in the mountains and all the educated sinners in the cities will be caught in the net of the kingdom.

At the end of the age, the angels shall come. They are the divine agents of eschatological separation. They shall separate the wicked from the righteous. The word, “separate,” from the Greek, aphorizo, means, “to exclude or remove someone from an association.” (Louw-Nida) The angels shall remove the wicked from the righteous.

Their action is universal—each single wicked person in history will be included in this judgment. No wicked person shall be left out.

A story is told about a good Christian engineer who died and went to Hell. Once there, he went to work. He installed air-conditioning, refrigeration, the works. Meantime, up in Heaven, God sent a message down to Hell. “Return the engineer you have there. He belongs with us!”

“No way,” replied the Devil, “here he came, here he stays.”

“If you do not comply instantly, I will sue you!” exclaimed God.

“And where are you going to find a lawyer up there?” came back the Devil.

The angelic action is methodical—no wicked will enter into Christ’s presence.No righteous person shall be thrown into the fires of judgment.[1]

Note the phrase, “from among the righteous” (ESV).It literally reads from the Greek, “out of the midst of the righteous” (ek mesou ton dikaion). They shall take the wicked from out of the midst of the righteous.

The Parable of the Weeds speaks of the same act of separation. In the Parable of the Weeds, the angels “will gather out of his kingdom [Gk. ek tes basileias autou] all causes of sin and all law-breakers” (Matt. 13:41, ESV). In the same way, in the Parable of the Net, the angels shall take away the wicked from out of the midst of the righteous.

In the present age, the wicked mix with the righteous. But at the end of the age, the wicked shall be removed from out of the midst of the righteous.

This is one reason why I think that the end of the age is at the end of the Tribulation Period. Jesus does not indicate the timing of the end of the age. But the end of the age may well be at the end of the Tribulation Period, after the seventh trumpet (cf. Rev. 11:15). At the end of the Tribulation Period, Christ shall come with his angels in power and glory. His angels shall take away the wicked from out of the righteous in this world. When that happens, the kingdom of this world shall become the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Thess. 1:7-10). This is not the Great White Throne Judgment of Rev. 20. The Great White Throne is the judgment of the dead. This judgment however, at the coming of Christ, is the judgment of the living.


                [1] Phil Newton, “The Distinctions of the Kingdom.” Cited July 8, 2013. Online: http://archive. southwoodsbc.org/sermons/ matthew_13.47-52.php.

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